Monday, March 31, 2008

Conservative Protestants' Religious Beliefs Contribute to Their Low Wealth, Duke Study Shows

"Duke Sociology Professor Lisa A. Keister examines how religion affects the wealth of believers [...]
The study examines why conservative Protestants are dramatically overrepresented at the bottom of the U.S. wealth distribution and concludes that the cultural understandings that accompany conservative Protestant beliefs influence wealth ownership directly and indirectly.


Religious beliefs affect conservative Protestants’ wealth in a number of ways. They influence wealth ownership directly by shaping the values that people use to make work and financial decisions. In particular, Biblical references to God’s exclusive ownership of worldly goods lead to practices which are likely to reduce saving and asset accumulation.
Using the Economic Values Survey and the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, the study found that conservative Protestants tend to hold the following beliefs:
-- Divine advice, advice from clergy and other religious advice about money and work have merit. More conservative Protestants than other people surveyed are likely to pray about financial decisions, for example.
-- Excess accumulation of wealth is undesirable. More conservative Protestants said money prevents one from knowing God than other people surveyed.
Religious belief also can influence net worth indirectly through behavior that impedes the accumulation of wealth. This behavior includes:
-- Low educational attainment. Education is one of the strongest predictors of wealth, and conservative Protestants have significantly less education than members of other faiths.
-- Conservative Protestants tend to have children relatively early and to have large families, both of which make saving difficult. Also, conservative Protestant women tend not to work outside the family, which also reduces the ability to save. Saving and the resulting growth of assets “are perhaps the single biggest predictors of total adult wealth,” the study says.


Keister notes that the results could be influenced by the conservative Protestants’ socioeconomic class, but she found that religion had a significant effect after controlling for class background, adult class and other indicators such as parents’ education and income.
Nor does race appear to be responsible for the effect of conservative Protestantism on wealth. She found that the effect was stronger among black conservative Protestants, but was significant among whites as well."

Dukenews, March 24, 2008
See also the report: “Conservative Protestants and Wealth: How Religion Perpetuates Asset Poverty”

This is very interesting, and I have to say, sad. It just goes to show how religion contributes to their poverty, thereby dragging them further down into ignorance. I'm not one to say that getting rich is the only good thing in the world, but being poor is hardly desirable either. Especially not when you live in a country where ending up in a hospital can be very expensive.
The Conservative Protestant fear of wealth is also an interesting reminder of the old ties between Christianity and Communism.

Also, that Blacks are poorer can therefore in part be explained by their widespread religiosity. As Norm Allen said in a Point of Inquiry Podcast, in the old days, the Church was the only free space they had. Here's two podcasts with him that I highly recommend March 14. 2008 and November 24. 2006.

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